Unified comms: making a connection

Unified communications is catching on as the technology improves, and organisations and individuals begin to realise its benefits

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Unified comms: making a connection Unified Communications have shifted from being a vendor-driven market to a customer-driven one, but there are still challenges to widespread adoption of systems
By  Keri Allan Published  August 29, 2012

The unified communications (UC) market has experienced significant growth in the Middle East (ME) and according to analyst firm Frost and Sullivan, is set to be worth $235 million by 2014.

An IDC white paper sponsored by Huawei echoed this view, stating that UC is becoming a must use technology in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) area and that only 25 per cent of those surveyed do not use any UC elements within their company.

As the name suggests, UC covers all types of communication including voice, video, social media data and other communications, merging them into a single converged platform that allows companies of all sizes to better communicate. Vendors have been ‘consumerising’ their offerings in line with the introduction of products such as Twitter; however, the interest has actually been customer, rather than vendor, driven.

“In the past, vendors had a habit of pushing their solutions to create market need. The roles have reversed now thanks to increasingly tech savvy customers in the region who have a greater understanding of what they need to suit their business requirements,” says Zia Mazafary, UC&C Solutions manager, Huawei Enterprise Middle East.

“Customers understand that they can make savings from combining products from multiple vendors. Vendors need to tailor UC go-to-market strategies to fit business processes – not tailor business processes to fit UC.”

Across the GCC area, the market has seen steady growth. For FVC, this has primarily been in the UAE, followed by Saudi.

“In the UAE, we are seeing a large adoption within private enterprises followed by education and finance,” says FVC managing director, KS Parag. “These three are the main vertical sectors where we see a great demand for UC solutions followed by the oil & gas sector. In KSA, the demand for UC solutions is stronger in the oil and gas, education and government sectors. Apart from UAE and KSA, we have seen a growing demand for UC solutions in Qatar, Kuwait and Oman,” he adds.

Frost and Sullivan reports that current awareness levels of UC across the ME exceed 80 per cent; however, adoption remains in the early stages. This still leaves plenty of room for growth, especially within the SME sector.

“Smaller organisations that would stand to benefit the most from UC are often reluctant to invest in the technology,” notes Mazafary. “Our channel partner network is critical in educating SMEs and even medium sized enterprises about the return on investment (ROI) they stand to achieve.

According to the IDC white paper, the biggest reason many companies delay UC adoption is cost of the installation, followed by the difficulty of seeing a tangible ROI. There are also barriers specific to the region – especially related to bandwidth issues.

“One of the challenges that is associated with the UC and video conferencing segment in the ME is the high cost of bandwidth,” highlights Wael Abdulal, collaboration manager, Cisco UAE. “As customers want the latest technologies in video conferencing to enhance productivity, reduce travel costs and improve the decision making process, high bandwidth costs limit the uptake. To overcome this issue, Cisco is working closely with service providers in the region to offer an end-to-end solution.”

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